This is different for every baby. There is no set length of time or frequency for breastfeeding. Breastfeeding should be responsive rather than scheduled – you should learn to recognise your baby’s feeding cues and respond to them before they become distressed. Cues include restlessness, wriggling, putting hands or fingers near or into their mouth, or rooting. Keeping your baby close to you will give you the opportunity to pick up on these cues and teach you how to respond to each other.
The amount of milk you produce is based on a supply and demand system, so the more your baby feeds, the more you’ll produce. Try not to get overanxious about it, as anxiety can affect your milk supply.
You can’t overfeed a baby when breastfeeding, so don’t worry if your baby feeds a lot. 8-12 feeds in 24 hours is completely normal. You may find that there are some days where your baby seems to be extremely hungry, and others where they go longer between feeds. This is normal and nothing to be concerned about, as long as your baby is having regular wet and dirty nappies and following their curve on their growth charts. If your baby isn’t feeding as much as normal and is showing any signs of dehydration, you should seek urgent medical advice.
Newborns have no internal clock, so might be awake most of the night. This is normal and is a positive thing, as the prolactin hormone that increases your milk supply is more active at night. Ask your partner or family to take over during the day so you can rest and try to sleep if you have fed your baby most of the night.
The lack of sleep and frequent feeding can be exhausting, but try not to give your baby formula milk, as your baby might then be less satisfied with subsequent breastfeeds, and their immunity to infection will be reduced as the flora in the gut will change. If you do give formula, you might find your baby will breastfeed less often, and you may not produce enough milk to satisfy their needs. Try to be patient and put your baby back on the breast again if they are restless and unsettled, or give a small amount of expressed milk. Avoid using dummies for at least the first few days until your milk has come in.